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Secondary Suite Process Reform

On March 12, 2018 City Council, approved amendments to the Land Use Bylaw that allows secondary suites as discretionary use within R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L land use districts. Applicants can now apply for a development permit as the first step in building a secondary suite in these land use districts. The development permit fee for all new secondary suite applications is being waived until June 1, 2020.

Council directed Administration to return with:

  • standards relating to the design of backyard suites across all districts before the end of 2018.
    Backyard suites applications in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L land use districts will not be accepted until the standards are approved by Council;
  • proposed draft amendments to the Suite Registry program

Learn more about the benefits of secondary suitesdevelopment permit processapply for a secondary suite or Suite Registry program.

Backyard Suites Guidelines

Council directed Administration to help make new backyard suites more acceptable and fitting in communities. To do this, The City is looking at changing some of the Land Use Bylaw rules and developing policy and design guidelines.

Administration was asked to return with guidelines relating to the design of backyard suites across all districts before the end of 2018. Backyard suites applications in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L land use districts will not be accepted until the guidelines are approved by Council.

Current work

City staff have been reviewing feedback from citizens from previous engagement on secondary suites, the discussions that have been had at Council, and the feedback from adjacent land owners on past backyard suite applications.

This work has given city staff a preliminary overview of the major concerns that neighbours have about the impact of backyard suites. Targeted discussions and workshops with Calgary's community associations to review these concerns and discuss others that may not have been captured are currently underway.

Those discussions will form the basis for proposed policy solutions as well as proposed design guidelines for backyard suites. The proposed policy and guidelines will be presented for feedback to the public beginning in June.


  • Research and policy discussion - March 2018 - May 2018
  • Initial workshops with Community Association members - May 2018
  • Public Engagement - June 2018
  • Policy and report writing - July - September 2018
  • Planning and Urban Development Committee - Q4 of 2018


March 12 Public Hearing
Administration's presentation to Council Public Hearing on 2018 March 12 Report to Council on the proposed changes is available for review.

R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L Land Uses

You ARE affected by these changes.

The proposed change means that secondary suites (suites within the primary dwelling) and backyard suites will both be discretionary uses in these land uses districts.

The difference between a permitted use and a discretionary use:

  • If both types of suites are approved as discretionary use in R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L land use districts, it means that community associations and neighbours are given the opportunity to provide comments during the development permit review process.
  • A decision on a discretionary development permit may be appealed.
  • Backyard suites are always a discretionary use in every other low-density district since they result in a visible change to the property.
  • Where a suite is a permitted use (as they are in every other low-density district), the development permit exemption will allow the property owner to proceed directly to the building permit stage, as long as the application does not require any relaxations from the Land Use Bylaw rules.

Opinions concerning these amendments:

  • Those wishing to submit feedback or concerns to Council on these amendments have an opportunity to do so through the March 12, 2018 Public Hearing.
  • Persons wishing to submit a letter, public opinion poll or other communication concerning these bylaw amendments may do so following the instructions below. Only those submissions received by the City Clerk no later than 12:00 p.m. (noon), March 5, 2018, shall be included in the Agenda of Council.
  • Any person who wishes to address Council in person on this matter on March 12, 2018 may do so for a maximum of five minutes.

The following land uses are already permitted to have secondary suites and will not be impacted by any of the proposed changes.

  • R-C1s
  • R-C2
  • R-1s
  • R-2
  • R-2M
  • R-CG
  • M-CG
  • R-G
  • R-Gm
  • R-C1N
  • R-1N

More information on the process for obtaining a secondary suite in these land use areas can be found on the Secondary Suites page.

For further information on other land use districts, please contact the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 for more information.

Secondary Suite Registry

The proposed changes include requiring all existing and new secondary suites to be part of The City’s Suites Registry Program, and adopt fees for the registry.

On 2017 December 11 Council passed a Notice of Motion that directed administration to pursue reforms to the process for secondary suite applications.

Under the current rules, homeowners in some parts of the city can get a development permit and/or building permit through The City to build a secondary suite. In other parts of the city, where the land use (zoning) does not yet permit secondary suites, homeowners must ask Council for permission (a change to the land use) in order to proceed with a development permit and/or building permit. If Council approves the land use change, then the next step is obtaining the proper building permits (sometimes a development permit is required prior to applying for the building permit).

If the proposed bylaw changes are approved, the rules will be consistent across the city and Council approval will no longer be required because all homeowners will have the ability to develop a suite (there will no longer be a need for a land use redesignation). Moving forward a homeowner would go straight to the development permit or building permit stage.

Current Applications

In advance of the report back in 2018 March, one Motion arising directed Administration to “consider holding new applications and not schedule any land use redesignation applications for secondary suites, for consideration by Council, until the 2018 March Public Hearing” and this requires immediate action.

If a homeowner currently has an application in progress that already has approved land use, then the application will be processed normally.

If a homeowner has an application that is in progress to have land use reviewed then the following will apply:

  • At the 2017 December 14 meeting of the Calgary Planning Commission (CPC), 11 applications to accommodate secondary suites will be directed to the 2018 March 12 Public Hearing of Council.
  • Applications heard on or after the 2018 January 11 CPC meeting will be heard at the 2018 March 12 or later Public Hearing of Council. Depending on the outcome of the 2018 March report, there may no longer be a requirement for a Public Hearing of Council for secondary suites.
  • Secondary suite applications that were heard at CPC on November 2 and November 16 (20 applications in total) are scheduled to go to the 2018 January 22 Public Hearing of Council, and the applications heard at the November 30 CPC (8 in total) are scheduled to go to the 2018 February 20 Public Hearing of Council. These applications will continue to be advertised and placed on the Council agenda for both January and February for Council deliberation.

New Applications

New applications received after Monday December 18 will be processed to the furthest possible extent, but ultimately will then be held until council deliberates the proposed new rules in March 2018.